Cancer is a disease which is caused by uncontrollable division of abnormal cells. This uncontrollable growth causes the formation of lumps called tumors.
These tumors are of two types:
- Benign tumor: A Non cancerous tumor. Localized and rarely spreads to the other parts of the body.
- Malignant tumor: Cancerous tumor and can spread to other parts of the body.
There are more than 200 different types of cancers as there are more than 200 different types of cells.
Primary and secondary cancer:
The place where the cancer begins is called primary cancer. And when cancer spreads to the other parts of the body through blood or lymphatic system it is called secondary cancer.
Cancer can result in different symptoms depending on its location but few of the most common symptoms include:
- Unexplained weight loss
- Changes in bowel or bladder habits
- Changes in the moles of the skin
- A sore that does not heal
- Unusual bleeding or discharge
- Fever: usually after the cancer has spread to the other parts of the body
- Feeling tired all the time
- Continuous pain in a certain parts of the body ex: a headache that does not go away might be a symptom of brain tumor, a lump in the breast may be a symptom of breast cancer, etc
If any of the above mentioned symptoms are encountered on a regular basis than a Doctor should be consulted immediately. Also know that these symptoms may occur due to other health problems.
Cancer develops gradually as a result of a mixture of factors related to environment, lifestyle, and heredity. Scientists have identified few risk factors that increase the cancer risk. About 80 percent of all cancers are related to the use of tobacco products, to what we eat and drink, or, to a lesser extent, exposure to radiation or cancer-causing agents (carcinogens) in the environment and the workplace. Some people are more sensitive than others to factors that can cause cancer.
Many risk factors can be avoided. Others, such as inherited risk factors, are, unavoidable. It is important to be cancer aware, but it is also important to keep in mind that not everyone with a particular risk factor for cancer actually gets the disease. In fact, most do not.
Few of the factors that increase the cancer risks are:
- Age: The chances of getting cancer increases as you grow old. The changes that makes a cell become cancerous at the first place takes a long time. A number of changes in the genes make the cell cancerous. These changes can happen accidently or when the body comes in contact with some carcinogen.
Genetic mutation: Sometimes a person born with a genetic mutation might have an increased chance of getting a particular type of cancer. For example, women born with a mutated BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes are at higher risk of developing breast cancer.
Note: This is not always true.
- Tobacco: Smoking, chewing or even passive smoking are responsible for one-third of all cancer deaths. Smoking accounts for more than 85 percent of all lung cancer deaths. Overall, for those who smoke one pack a day, the chance of getting lung cancer is about 10 times greater than non-smokers. The use of smokeless tobacco (chewing tobacco) causes cancer of the mouth and throat. Also, involuntary smoking causes about 3,000 lung cancer deaths in this country each year.
- Sunlight: Ultraviolet radiation from the sun and from other sources (such as sunlamps and tanning booths) damages the skin and can cause skin cancer. Repeated exposure to ultraviolet radiation increases the risk of skin cancer, especially if you have fair skin. The sun rays are strongest during the summers from about 11:00 a.m. to about 3:00 p.m. Hence, it is best to avoid the sun during this time. Protective clothing, such as a hat and, long sleeves, can help block the sun's harmful rays. You can also use sunscreens to help protect yourself. Sunscreens are rated in strength according to their SPF (sun protection factor), which ranges from 2 to 30 and higher. Those rated 15 to 30 block most of the sun harmful rays.
- Alcohol: Drinking large amount of alcohol increases the risk of cancer of the mouth, throat, oesophagus, and larynx. (People who smoke cigarettes and drink alcohol have a higher risk of getting these cancers.) Alcohol can damage the liver and increase the risk of liver cancer. Some studies suggest that drinking alcohol also increases the risk of breast cancer. So if you drink, do it in moderation i.e. not more than one or two drinks per day.
- Radiation: X-rays used for diagnosis expose you to a very little radiation and the benefits nearly always outweigh the risks. However, repeated exposure can be harmful. So, it is good to talk to your doctor or dentist about the need for x-rays and use shields to protect other parts of your body.
- Chemicals: Chemicals and other substances in the workplace such as metals, dust chemicals, or pesticides can increase the risk of cancer. Asbestos, nickel, cadmium, uranium, radon, vinyl chloride, benzidene, and benzene are well-known examples of carcinogens in the workplace. These may act alone or along with another carcinogen, such as cigarette smoke. For example, inhaling asbestos fibers increases the risk of lung diseases, including cancer, and the cancer risk is high for asbestos workers who smoke. It is important to follow work and safety rules to avoid contact with dangerous materials.
- Hormone Replacement Therapy: Women who use estrogen therapy to control the hot flashes, vaginal dryness, and osteoporosis (thinning of the bones) that may occur during menopause may have increased risk of getting cancer of the uterus. Other studies suggest an increased risk of breast cancer among women who have used high doses of estrogen or have used estrogen for a long time.
There are several treatments available for cancer. Few of the most common traditional treatments include Chemotherapy, Radiation therapy, Surgery, Hormone therapy etc. But most of these treatments result in side effects like hair loss, damage to normal cells, bone loss etc. However, a new treatment developed in this field called Immunotherapy fights cancer without any major side effects.